Eating their own poop or that of another dog is not only a disgustingly bad habit that many dogs partake in but it can also be an indication of health problems.
Abnormal indigestive behavior such as eating poop, rocks, iron, glass, ice, screws, gravel, dirt, or just eating abnormal amounts of food can be related to PICA (Pie-Kuh)–consistent ingestion of nonfood material or Coprophagia (cop-ra-FAY-jee-a)–ingestion of feces.
According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, PICA and Coprophagia can be signs of behavioral problems such as obsessive compulsive disorders. However, some animal studies by holistic veterinarians suggest that a lack of nutrition may also be the culprit.
Although your dog may be eating a well-balanced diet of both wet and dry foods, the ability of your dog’s digestive system to properly absorb the nutrients in the fool may be less than adequate. Dogs are instinctively driven to scavenge or find foods to supplement their needs and will often turn to such things as feces, vomit, and decaying flesh to find these valuable nutrients.
Some foods that are difficult for a dog to completely digest, such as carrots and grain-based foods, can become a trigger for the dog to ingest feces. A diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein may help to improve your dog’s ability to digest food and to produce stools that are less appetizing.
Many holistic veterinarians suggest supplementing your dog’s diet with enzymes such as those found in Prozyme. Other suggest the use of herbs such as ginger or cinnamon in tiny amounts (1/8 to 1/4 tsp) sprinkled on their food to make the feces less appetizing. The addition of pineapple, spinach, garlic, and pumpkin, in small amounts, to your dog’s food can also help in making the feces less desirable to eat.
If you have a dog that is eating his or other animal feces, you should first have them examined by a qualified veterinarian. Coprophagia may simply be due to a lack of nutrients, however, there are many other possible causes including Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (the inability of the pancreas to produce a sufficient amount of digestive enzymes), Pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas), and intestinal infections.
While the feces may provide the nutrients the dog is seeking, they may also contain parasites such as round worms or whipworms and can lead to other more serious medical disorders.
There are three types of Coprophagia:
Autocoprophagia–when a dog partakes in eating his or her own feces.
Intraspecific Coprophagia–when a dog partakes in eating the feces of another animal in his or her own species.
Interspecific Coprophagia–when a dog partakes in eating the feces of another species of animal such as cat feces or deer and rabbit droppings.
Other reasons for a dog eating feces include a need for attention, (even if it is from being disciplined by their owner), copying other animals who engage in eating feces, following the maternal instinct to clean up, or simply not being fed enough to satisfy their appetite.
Whatever the reason, it may be more than just a disgusting habit and should be investigated to ensure the health of your canine.